Being able to articulate how you create value empowers change for the better!

Now you’ve gotten to the bottom of WHY you want to change your business, the next step is to understand HOW you’re going to change your business. How does the change initiative and the planned future vision deliver the value that proves you believe in your WHY?

How we plan the move from our current state to our future state, is critical when it comes to change. The way we prepare, plan, lead, manage and sustain change, tests our credibility as leaders and our success as a company.

After WHY, the key question for anyone going through change is “What’s in it for me?” The essence of this question is often linked to HOW. Creating a vision of the future and being clear about HOW to get there, takes away some of the negative emotion sitting in change.

A simple example can be a goal I set for myself recently “I will run the London marathon”. The reason for this is twofold, I want to feel the success of running a marathon before I get too old and I want to be healthier – the WHY is defined.

But how will I get across the finishing line in London? How many kilometres do I have to run to get in shape? What kind of shoes should I wear? Do I need a running coach? Which books should I read? Shall I tell my friends?

The energy is all going into figuring out the HOW and this in turn creates frustration, worry, fear. Multiply that a thousand-fold when addressing all the individuals working within a big company – and that’s an awful lot of negative emotion. The HOW is key for all change. It’s about mental and emotional preparation, expectation management – if you are clear in a HOW blueprint at the start of your journey together with your WHY, people have no problem pulling together and tackling the WHAT.

Coming back to the world of business, many big change programs start from a position of competition. There is always someone who can produce a product at a lower cost, produce a higher level of profit and therefore innovate in a new way or design a unique service offer.

If you don’t fully understand how your business delivers its unique value for your customer today it is very difficult to understand the extent of the change required to move your business ahead of the competition tomorrow. Even more importantly, designing your business strategically and staying ahead of the game by constantly looking for new ways to add value for the end consumer whilst, of course, continuing to deliver profit, is the only way to ensure you stay in the lead.

Large companies are often divided up into functions and/or organisations, these functions or organisations control resources in terms of money and people, they can also, and often do, stand in the way of change. Going into change from a ‘what to do’ perspective and addressing your functional managers or different organisations will only lead to confusion as each person tries to ensure the change benefits them in the best way possible. Its only when the HOW is approached from a process perspective we can truly design the best approach for our customers.

Mapping your processes and creating a clear overview of your value chain is crucial to ‘frame the change’. Clearly defining where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow, helps people to understand the move you are after and the effect you are aiming to create. If you design and communicate your process landscape in such a way that you could then show your customers and they would understand how you do business on THEIR behalf, you are on the way.

From this picture of the future, your co-workers can start to understand what they need to do individually to deliver the WHAT. By providing a clear blueprint of the future, emotions are calmed and people start to join the journey of change.

So, how does this all lead back to change for the better?

  • The better you can frame the WHY and meet the hearts of those who will go through the change, the better position you are in to be met with an open mind and curiosity. People are ready to support and eager to see how they can contribute when working for a company that talks to their hearts.
  • The clearer you are yourself, as a leader, regarding the change and its effect on HOW you do business means you can design a blueprint of your value chain, with the customer in focus and with an eye on the empowerment of your co-workers, not different organisations. By creating such a vision, you will align individuals around a picture of the future. In turn this calms emotion – a vision gives people something to hold on to – ‘oh, I see what she’s talking about, this could be really interesting!’
  • The better you can ‘frame the change’ and explain all of this to your co-workers and then let them concentrate on WHAT they should do to deliver to the WHY and the HOW blueprint – you will in turn, empower them further to enable the change needed.

  • Mix all of this with a high level of emotional intelligence from the leaders introducing the change, as Peter describes in his blog from March, together with a great communication strategy and learning tools from Symbal and you really will be on your way.

Sara Ahlberg

Name: Sara Ahlberg
Title: Senior Change Communication Expert
Experience: 29 years working with change management
Personal Mission: Connect the heart before the brain to enable change
Change Anthem: Change the World, Colby and Awu
Sara Ahlberg

Motivating co-workers, spinners and toddlers: change starts with why?

People don’t buy what you do, they buy what you believe in. You can support your people with information and tools, but it always starts (and ends) with WHY! This is what enabling change is all about.

When my children were small and it was time to eat supper and they were in the middle of a very exciting game, it was always difficult to get them to change from game mode to dinner mode. Demanding never worked. Sometimes I managed to trick them, but there always came a moment when they realised I had tricked them. It never felt great and it didn’t work a second time. However, if I took the time to explain why things were important to do just now, and I managed to get their ‘buy in’, they behaved like stars. The ‘why’ for my children was the most important tool to get them to change behaviour.

It works on grown-ups, too. One of the trainers at my local gym uses ‘why’ to great effect. All his classes are full to overflowing every single week. While other classes struggle to lure people in, people fight for a spot to work out with him. How does he do it? The how and the what are not unique. He follows a franchised class structure, and yet something is different. He believes in what he does. He tells us clearly why he is there. He wants us all to get fit, to be healthy, to fit into the jeans we bought last week and are two sizes too small. There is an emotional connection. Every week, when the going gets tough, he reminds us all to think about why we are there. At that point, the whole class starts to spin a little harder, or squat a little lower or reach for an extra couple of kilos on their dumbbells. We aren’t there for him, we are there for ourselves – but we believe in what he believes in. Once we connect to that, we are ready to give it the extra push.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it!”
Simon Sinek

By inspiring people emotionally, we encourage a change in behaviour and things start to happen. Change starts and ends, as always, with people.

‘Why’ starts the whole journey with the customer and with your co-workers. It is the key to whether people choose your business or not. It is the emotional connection people have or don’t have to your business.

Businesses exist because they offer a product or a service which answers a need. But people don’t lack for choices. This is where the unique way in which the service or product is designed starts to add value and differentiate one business from another.

Change is often driven by a need to differentiate. Some businesses aim for the lowest price. Some add extra features to differentiate themselves. Then it’s up to the customer to decide if they want the lower price or the added value. When another business puts a unique twist on a product or service, the game is on – your business needs to change to stay competitive. Preferably, something that puts you ahead of all the others in the hearts and minds of the customer.

It is vital to remember a business does not change by decree of the board of directors. The people that work with you make a change happen. First, we need to inspire them. Reiterate WHY you exist. By first addressing the heart, their minds open to the HOW and the WHAT.

Most people getting up in the morning to go to work can explain what they will do when the get there. Fewer can really explain ‘how’ the business does what it does – how their value chain creates a unique product or service and how their work fits into the bigger context. Very, very few can explain ‘why’ they go to work every morning.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy what you believe in. You can support your people with information and tools, but it always starts (and ends) with WHY! This is what enabling change is all about.

WHY needs to explain the meaning of your business. Why do we exist? Understanding that leads to the way you build your ‘how’ – your Value Chain is a direct result of why you exist.

To summarise, great leaders don’t just issue orders. They inspire people to act. To spin harder, to stop playing and sit at the dinner table, to change a work routine. It’s only after you win people’s hearts that you’re ready to manage the change.

In next week’s blog post we will start to address HOW. Enabling as many people in our business as possible to understand ‘how’ the business is put together is the next step in the preparation towards enabling change for the better.

Sara Ahlberg

Name: Sara Ahlberg
Title: Senior Change Communication Expert
Experience: 29 years working with change management
Personal Mission: Connect the heart before the brain to enable change
Change Anthem: Change the World, Colby and Awu
Sara Ahlberg

Why? A little, three-letter word that holds so much power…


We’re told that it’s important that people understand WHY in order to readily accept and adopt changes. In other words, to get people onboard the ‘change train’, we must explain why. Often, the business reason for change lies in a declining competitiveness, or the threat of the same, so as a leader, you paint an exciting picture of the future that you want to move towards and you assume everyone will be inspired and the change will start to happen – of course, life isn’t really like that.

Professor John P. Kotter speaks of the need to anchor the ‘sense of urgency’ and to ‘get the vision right’.

As a practitioner, I am in complete agreement. Over the years, a large part of our work at Symbal has been about communicating the WHY? According to our customers, in retrospect, when their businesses needed to change, the ‘why’ communication was the main reason the change journey took off in the right direction. So, clearly, to establish ‘why’ in the minds of the many people is one of the cornerstones of change.

Many company managers understand that the purpose and motive is important to be able to convince and show direction. But why is it then, that within so many companies, despite their knowledge and despite all their efforts to make change a reality, employees do not ‘buy’ the management motives and the change never really takes a grip?

I have picked out some reasons to illustrate that it’s actually more than words, that matter.

Of course, the logic is that to begin with, the message must be credible and logical. Ethos and Logos. ‘Do we really have the ability to climb that mountain, as our management says?’ ‘How did they arrive at that conclusion, that it’s necessary to change?’ It’s important to share the clarity around those questions. BUT is this really the most important step at the beginning of a new change journey?

Clearly, what is often neglected is that the message must be filled with passion and fervor. Pathos. Who says what, and in what way is crucial. Not least at the beginning of a journey of change. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen and heard business leaders, talking about their vision and strategic objectives like they were reading from a technical manual or from a recipe book explaining how to cook Tuesday’s fish.

My experience is that Pathos is sometimes more important than the Ethos and Logos of getting people to engage and move, based on a strategic message. It’s when eyes light up and skin reddens with excitement, and the body language becomes excited that people start to feel that the leader believes what she is saying.

If you gather your people in a room to talk about new change initiatives, you can be fully confident that they are looking at you, how you behave when you talk and how you sound – and if you’re conveying warmth or cold. What is written in your PowerPoint is of far less importance.

My opinion is that PowerPoint is great, but mainly as a tool for script writing, not presentation. The performer makes the presentation not the PowerPoint.

I would say that at the start of a journey of change, the leadership’s ability to convey Pathos is many times more significant than that of Ethos and Logos. At the beginning of a journey, people need to feel safe. The leader’s main role is to create that feeling. A leader’s tools to get this message across are her mouth, her body and her own feelings – her whole being. With these tools she shows direction. Emotional presence trumps rational argument.

The larger the magnitude of the change – the greater the need for Pathos in the beginning. And to all of you who like process maps and multidimensional matrixes – there will be plenty of room for both the Ethos and Logos later on in the journey… And it will all be needed.

Things you can do to bring more PATHOS into a meeting:

  • Make sure that you’re mentally onboard yourself, find yourself in the change journey ahead and be clear in your own personal choice – yes, I believe in this! If you truly believe, it will happen!
  • Prepare yourself. Ready-made PowerPoints are good, but try to find your own story and your own way of telling it. A good trick is to use your own examples in life that you can relate to.
  • Practice. Why not make a dry run with your family whilst sitting on the sofa. Better critics, you will not find.

  • Finally, the principle of top sponsorship. Let the CEO talk about the motive and vision. If you’re really creative, package the vision into a visual story on film.

In my experience these tips make a difference. They can provide a lot of energy to pull off the change process and move things from the very beginning, in a truly great direction.

Challenges and opportunities of the digital paradigm shift

Say what you will about these times, but they’re certainly not boring. Globalisation, migration, and digitalisation coincide as a catalyst for fundamental societal change. Even the solid walls of the office building won’t remain unaffected by this transformation. Cause for companywide concern or window of opportunity? I think it’s up to us!

As the mind-set and values of our old industrial society collide with a digitally connected and social world, any organisation is bound to feel the impact. Many of us entered into the Era of Digitalisation before we had time to adopt new behaviours. The unlimited access to people and information brings plenty of advantages, not least an increased sense of freedom. Working isn’t tied to a fixed workplace anymore. Knowledge is no longer a possession to be stored and guarded, be it in heads or on hard drives. It’s information, it’s free, and you fetch it whenever you need it from sources who are happy to share.

Leaders in both the public and private sector are largely the grown-up children of the closing chapters of the industrial age. In this sense, the digitalised paradigm shift manifests itself throughout the organisation. Obviously as a generational gap, but in the organisational distance between CEO and junior team member as well. The latter is more likely to be a ‘digital native’ than the former. This entails radically differing starting points. Digital natives don’t consider the world the product of a digital revolution, but rather perceive it as naturally digital. For them, using an app for internal communication may come easy, while older colleagues might require time and conscious effort to learn how to use it. Some may even struggle to see the point of doing so. It’s important to recognise that our current workplace encompasses epilogue and prologue all at once, and address these gaps in order to bridge them.

The Workplace Value Differentiator: My model of today’s workplace containing 3-4 generations with different values about work and online networking. This is the starting point of the next phase of business and organisational digitalisation.

The bottom line is that digitalisation presents a social challenge in terms of shared identity, in behaviour and in spirit. Learning new skills is only one part of the adaptation process. Changing old habits is just as crucial, and these are often deeply rooted in the very core of our values. For many of us old-timers, this just might be the bigger hurdle. Staying relevant tomorrow can’t be based on what is known to be productive today, but on the anticipation of and the adaptation to changing needs.

As our society is transforms, its values change, too. The increased freedom we’re enjoying brings heightened insecurity in its wake. Now perhaps more than ever, being part of a workplace plays a crucial part in each individual’s life. The social aspect is a central factor in this equation. But it will require curiosity and daring to keep the relationships intact, regardless if you’re a CEO or a staff member.

Come out on top with my list of handy tips on how to master the challenges of digitalisation:

  • Remember to develop your business according to the needs of your customers – don’t let software companies take the wheel.
  • Create a long-term digitalisation strategy that stretches across several years. From there, you take it step by step.
  • Choose the best travel companions for your journey, then let their abilities inform your priorities.
  • Change takes time. The better you prepare for this, the smoother your change journey will be.
  • Be realistic about your own limitations. Invite younger members of staff to guide you through the change process.
  • Encourage trial, error, and exploration. Set small challenges for yourself and the rest of management. Once you’ve decided on a direction, it’s up to you to blaze the trail!

If you learn how to go with the changing currents, the digital wave can take you further than we’d thought possible a couple of years ago.

Peter Gustafson

Title: Strategic Advisor
Experience: 25 years working with change management
Personal mission: To take the fear out of change
Weapon of choice: The Symbal Change Model
Change anthem: Aerosmith, Dream on
Peter Gustafson

Office 365 is about behavior, not software


The digital workplace isn’t exactly breaking news. So why are so many people talking about the digital workplace in 2016? Because it’s moving into the cloud.

Tech giants like Microsoft and Google have gone all-in on cloud platforms that let you store and access your work from anywhere, share calendars, host remote meetings and much more. The cloud has created entirely new ways to collaborate in real-time. That is, if people actually use these new tools.

Jumping back to the 90’s, it was our younger colleagues who drove the workplace transformation. They were the ones who taught themselves to use PCs, send emails and create presentations in now-forgotten programs like Harvard Graphics. Traditionalists dragged their feet and stuck to typewriters or even writing by hand.

The first to change were the first to benefit. They became more productive and took greater control of their work by cutting out the middlemen. Young workers actually got a career boost by jumping on board the digital train. But it’s important to bear in mind that for them they just needed to get started with the new – their older colleagues had to break ingrained habits.

The new digital workplace comes with the same challenges and opportunities. The first to embrace cloud based tools will have a great advantage while the laggards will struggle to keep up.

These new ways of sharing and collaborating are more about changing behavior than learning new procedures. Motivating that behavioral change comes down to answering one question: what’s in it for me?

Motivated or not, change is coming. With the shift to the cloud, Microsoft is changing their whole business model and eliminating support for older software.

You’ll thank them later. Pulling the plug will force everyone to at least learn the basics, like the new ways to create and share documents. The real challenge is getting people to go beyond the basics and realize the full potential of this technology, e.g. creating crowd sourced portals dedicated to a project. Microsoft can’t inspire your people to come up with and share ideas. That comes down to internal communication and leadership.

We’ve helped several companies implement Office 365. That experience has us convinced of a few things:

  • It’s not an IT project – it’s a matter of changing workplace culture and behavior.
  • Leading by example is everything. The most convincing way to get people to try out something new is seeing the CEO make it part of their everyday work.
  • It’s critical that you make it easy for people to ask questions and find information by collecting everything they need in one place.
  • Ambassadors give the change a kick in the pants – find people that have a genuine interest in the new platform and let them lead the way.
  • Variety is the spice of learning. Use the right format for each topic, whether it’s webinars, e-learning courses or in the classroom.
  • Make the change a recurring topic in your team meetings to keep your people talking about progress and problems. And give leaders the support they need to address those problems.
  • Keep repeating your message, follow-up your efforts and share success stories to demonstrate what everyone has to gain.

Anna Bromander

Title: Regional Manager Symbal Gothenburg
Experience: Almost 20 years working with communication and learning.
Personal mission: To make the difficult understandable and fun.
Weapon of choice: Humour and passion
Change anthem: Bridge over troubled water, Simon & Garfunkel
Anna Bromander

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Talk the talk to make people walk the walk

The way employees and leaders talk about a change initiative affects their ability and willingness to behave in a way that supports the change. People’s actions are powerfully influenced by the conversations they participate in. If invited to participate in a conversation, and not just listen to others voices, people will become co-initiators of change. Getting involved in the reasoning both stabilizes productivity and creates the ability to change. In other words, the way we talk about change really matters.

As a researcher and teacher in organizational communication, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing change communication go from a rather anonymous specialty to a burgeoning field of research during the last 10–15 years. At the start of the millennium, when I wrote my doctoral dissertation on strategic change and internal communication, change communication barely existed as a concept in academia or in practice. At that time, research on the topic was scarce and mostly dominated by a linear, one-way model of communication. The general notion was that change communication, or rather information, was a top-down process where management delivered change related messages to employees who were supposed to adjust accordingly. If they did not, the ever-present ‘resistance to change’ was to blame for the failure of change initiatives. Luckily, more nuanced perspectives on change communication have appeared since then.

One perspective that has gained recognition among communication practitioners, at least in Sweden, is characterized by an emphasis on sense-making, i.e. how we understand the world, behave in line with these interpretations and thus actively create our own environments (such as the organization we work in). Perceiving communication as a highly interpretive process of sense-making and sense-giving of course makes change management more complex. However, it also allows for us to see why change often fails due to a deficient understanding of the employees’ stake in and interpretation of the change at hand.

Yet another expanding and highly relevant line of inquiry takes a more critical stance. Here, power, politics and the struggle over symbolic or financial resources as well as meaning are seen as crucial factors that may drive as well as hamper change. If these subtle but extremely influential factors are not taken into account, even the most well-designed communication strategy is destined to fail.

During the last couple of years, scholars have tried to shed some light on the process of change communication by applying a literary and linguistic framework. The importance of language, metaphors and stories is not new in organizational communication. Still, as these concepts have made their way into change communication, they have also opened up new venues for successful change implementation. If we take this research seriously, which I strongly endorse, organizations may in fact be conceptualized as continuously ongoing ‘conversations’ between the members of an organization. The way employees talk about their work, their colleagues and organizational processes is not merely talk. Talk is what makes up organizational conversations and these conversations mediate action, i.e. what people actually decide to do or think, e.g. in relation to a change initiative. This line of reasoning indicates that stability as well as change to a large degree resides in the way we talk about organizational matters. Change often requires new actions and novel understandings and this shift is deeply anchored in how we name, frame and talk about things.

Maybe I’ve just made this even more complicated, but the take away is quite straightforward: In this context talk is not cheap. Change leaders have to pay attention to what people talk about, how they say it and to whom they say it in order to foster conversations and stories that support a certain change initiative.

Today, there is a plethora of research on change communication and the inspiration ranges from utterly linear, top-down models to rather fluid post-modern theories of communication. No matter what kind of theories, perspectives or gurus one may favor, it is gratifying to be able to conclude that change communication has gained a considerable amount of scholarly interest. Nevertheless, it is even more rewarding to note that a lot of this knowledge is not secluded from practice. What I take away from numerous contacts with practitioners in the communication sector is that linear and persuasive models of change communication have not ceased to influence practice, but they are certainly accompanied by far more effective and complex ways of approaching communication and social interaction during change processes.

My suggestion is to learn from theories and apply them when preparing and planning a change. Use them as a framework for managing the change over time. But don’t get stuck in the models when the actual change and transformation is about to happen. Make your leaders take on the role of being conversation starters and good listeners. Because it’s in the everyday conversations the energy that drives change will be found.

Sara von Platen

Title: Assistant professor, Dept. of Strategic Communication, Lund University.
Experience: Engaged researcher and lecturer on organizational communication, communication consultancy and organizational change.
Anthem: Things Change, Dwight Yoakam
Weapon of choice: Knowledge and patience
Sara von Platen

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    Communication channel # 1


    “Communication comes in both words and deeds. The latter is generally the most powerful form. Nothing undermines change more than behaviour by important individuals that is inconsistent with the verbal communication. And yet this happens all the time, even in some well regarded companies.” John P. Kotter, author of Leading Change.

    I couldn’t agree more. Over the two decades I’ve worked with various forms of marketing and communication, my conclusion is that leaders at all levels need to see themselves – their words and actions – as their most influential communication channel.

    Most of the time, at least on an intellectual level, leaders are unanimous about the direction of a change initiative. Yet the same managers are often the very reason change takes much longer than it needs to.

    This boils down to a few pitfalls:

    • I, as a leader have not understood or accepted that I have to make a personal change journey before I can convince others
    • I, as a leader lack the support of communication tools (and as such every leader has a different take on the message)
    • I, as a leader have not realized the importance of constant repetition of the message and open dialogue with co-workers
    • I, as a leader fail in my symbolic leadership – i.e. leading the way through my own actions
    • I, as a leader lack ability or knowledge of presentation techniques
    • I, as a leader avoid hearing out feedback and fail to coach my employees

    I think most managers in senior positions recognize themselves in some of these points. It’s not easy to be a manager, especially at the intermediate level. You live under the constant pressure of expectations and commitments from above, from below and from the sides.

    But managers do much better when we support them.

    Communication can make all the difference by providing the support management needs and strengthening change management. Start by adding the different management levels to your communication plan. In the same way you customize newsletters and the intranet to the target group, “the manager channel” must be tailored to their needs. That applies to both content and format.

    On several occasions, I’ve helped management teams practice their ability to communicate change. I’ve found working with these three elements helps them succeed:

    • Process change messages together based on everyday situations. A manager’s first task is to “translate” the overall messages and adapt them to the various internal target groups. This work rests on operational managers – not the communication department. Take the time to help them digest the messages and practice presenting them in a safe environment. If you take the time early, it will lead to easy, quick wins going forward.
    • Practice symbolic leadership, insight and skills. Tasks can be quickly managed simply by following a checklist. But leaving it at that leads to limited results. Symbal uses a method based on theory mixed with exercises. The participants come to see for themselves the importance of setting a good example, being clear and keeping track or progress during a change journey. Personal insights are gained on what management need to work on and we can fine-tune the actual ability to lead change.
    • Set up a long-term communication infrastructure. On a global level, the prep work should include not just an implementation plan, but a methodology for measuring the impact of communication during the change journey. Based on this, develop a toolbox of communication materials, supported by a collaborative platform (digital and physical) for knowledge sharing, planning, measuring, follow-up, etc.

    Your project is far more likely to succeed when you take “the leadership channel” seriously and give it the attention it deserves. If you put in the time and resources even before launch, your managers will shine and lead the change with confidence.

    Peter Gustafson

    Title: Strategic Advisor
    Experience: 25 years working with change management
    Personal mission: To take the fear out of change
    Weapon of choice: The Symbal Change Model
    Change anthem: Aerosmith, Dream on
    Peter Gustafson

    Your co-workers deserve the same creative standards as your customers

    It’s Monday morning. You caught a movie on the big screen this weekend and the home team won. You have a steaming cup of coffee on your desk and you’re feeling primed and ready to take on the week’s long list of tasks. As you comb through the 82 new emails in your inbox, the first twinge of work stress already wiggling to life, one subject line flashes by:

    – New sales tools to launch in Q4 –

    You click and scan a block of text about how you are required to go to the intranet and complete an e-learning module on the new tools. Sounds like a drag. Knowing the intranet, it’ll take an hour just to find the thing. You place the task at number 42 on your priority list as the bubbliness of the weekend fades into memory.

    Now imagine that instead of a block of text, you get a link. The link takes you to an animated film showing you a colorful future where you’ll be able to do the things you and your colleagues have wanted to do for ages. The film even has some humor in it and leaves you with a smile on your face. The twinge of work stress twitters away and the good vibe from the weekend is reawakened. Maybe this will actually be… fun?!

    Sure, it can take a little more effort to get creative. You understand why it’s necessary for reaching customers. There’s a whirlwind of media to break through, you need to connect emotionally, you need to bring what’s in it for them to life, all of that. But your own people are paid to do what you tell them. Why spend the money?

    Because your people also have a whirlwind of things competing for attention and they also need to be connected with emotionally if you want real engagement. And because you get so much more in return when people are inspired to not just complete tasks, but truly care about elevating the company to greater heights.

    You don’t inspire with standard issue emails and a paycheck. You inspire by putting a little extra effort into demonstrating your vision of a better future. To break through the clutter and stress, you need to show your people the respect and creative standards you generally reserve for customers. Otherwise, your initiative is likely to end up in the spam folder.

    Jason Ross

    Title: Symbal, Concept Designer
    Experience: 8 years as a Creative
    Personal mission: To inject humanity into your communication
    Weapon of choice: Nouns and verbs and adjectives
    Change anthem: The Hand That Feeds, Nine Inch Nails
    Jason Ross

    It’s time to adapt to new values or risk going extinct

    A reflection from Peter Gustafson after participating in this week’s Copenhagen Summit (Presidents Institute)

    The future belongs to those who adapt. No news there. But how do you uncover the right way forward before it’s too late?

    First, you have to accept that old ways must be abandoned. That’s a bitter pill for people like me who have built careers based on a respect for tradition. We tell ourselves the old ways were engineered by geniuses who knew how to get things done. That those ways are anchored in organizations because they help employees do great work. That they help companies make money and grow.

    It’s not easy for me and many others to understand the new ways everyone’s talking about. How can we adapt existing business models to a whole new logic? Is it possible?

    The new ways are all about collective intelligence, a mobile lifestyle and social responsibility. They’re shaped by a massive shift in technology, e.g. that we live openly on social media, the ease of publishing and viewing videos and access to cloud services, to name a few. All these changes make life more complicated and block our view of bends in the road that are coming fast.

    But you won’t see them any better by closing your eyes. The key to finding the right way forward is to not just explore new technology, but to understand how new values and new lifestyles are changing the rules in the middle of the game.

    Picture from Johan Ridderstråle’s performance.

    Peter Gustafson

    Title: Strategic Advisor
    Experience: 25 years working with change management
    Personal mission: To take the fear out of change
    Weapon of choice: The Symbal Change Model
    Change anthem: Aerosmith, Dream on
    Peter Gustafson

    Measure twice, cut once!


    There are cognitive biases built-in to the management culture of large companies and within management literature that is copied over and over again.

    If one looks at the number of hours spent on discussions and reflections at management level on a company’s future, as well as on the amount of written pages about management theory, and one compares that with the number of hours and pages spent on planning, preparation and practical guidance in the implementation, there is an unfortunate imbalance.

    An example: Suppose we have a company of 10,000 employees. We have 1,000 managers at various levels, of which 100 represents the top layer. Among those, 10 people are in the decision-making management group.

    These 10 people are making decisions on a new long-term strategy, that the Board approves. The groundwork for the strategy consists of several years of discussions and analyses of the company’s operations, e.g. by a hired ‘super-consultant’. The bill from the consultant is 5 million SEK.

    The strategy is presented to the rest of the top management, the 90 people who break it down in different work groups. Within the different areas analysis of processes, systems and organization is carried out. Specialized business consultants in I.T., operations, supply chain, etc. are hired to help. The overall consultant cost ends up at 2 million SEK, excluding the purchase of some new I.T. solutions.

    Executing the strategy

    After 6 months, it is time to start the roll-out of five new strategic initiatives based on the main strategy. The other 900 middle managers and staff of 9000 employees will begin a change journey.

    And it is here the imbalance becomes apparent!

    Unfortunately, in many cases a bumpy ride begins here. There will be widely-held doubts. Five strategic initiatives are led by five different project teams. Each team makes up its own implementation plan. Plans include launch events and training to get everyone on track. According to science, as well as our own experience, many strategic initiatives never become fully implemented. They run out of energy, the resistance is too great or it takes so long that the reality changes and it is not ‘worth’ continuing with.

    Often, there is a lack of a few basic conditions required to be able to succeed. Here is a list of the three most crucial mistakes:

    • No target analysis has been made of attitude and motivation perspectives. If project teams are not aware of the reality, they can’t prepare the right way.
    • Middle managers are being involved too late, just a short time before the employees. Sometimes it happens at the same time, which is the worst possible strategy. Middle managers are the most important communication channel and change drivers. Consider them the most important asset.
    • The fact that all people need time to catch up to understand, be motivated and feel that they themselves are in the driver’s seat is overlooked. Top executives might have had 3 years to prepare, but employees are expected to re-think and adopt in maybe 3 weeks, at worst 3 days.


    The more qualified time that is spent on analysis, preparation and planning, the shorter the implementation period gets. The communication activities, the content and shape of them, the intensity – how recurring they are – have great significance for how employees feel and understand the change. Unfortunately, it is not enough with a PowerPoint presentation and a few workshops. What you invest in the preparation of the change journey, you will get back many times over in the end, both in terms of time and money.

    Peter Gustafson

    Title: Strategic Advisor
    Experience: 25 years working with change management
    Personal mission: To take the fear out of change
    Weapon of choice: The Symbal Change Model
    Change anthem: Aerosmith, Dream on
    Peter Gustafson